Writer’s block can be a really difficult challenge. It can seem insurmountable. It’s a big pile of NO NO NO NO that keeps you from going anywhere. Except in many ways, writer’s block is something we have created ourselves. It’s a trick we play on ourselves to avoid the things that really scare us. Our fears of not being good enough. Our reluctance to face our emotions. The commitment it takes to be an artist. The idea that if we try our best at something we really want we may fail, and then lose our dreams. It’s scary. But lots of things are scary and sometimes all you need is to grit your teeth and make one small step to break through that block. Don’t give up… look for a different way through that block.
- Scrap it. Go back before you got stuck and start from there. Maybe there was something about your project that made you subconsciously resist moving forward down the wrong path.
- Doodle. Try a low stakes, low brain power creative output. Turn your brain off. Let your hands work.
- Take baby steps. Break it down into smaller pieces. Get through one scene. One paragraph. One sentence.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes and commit to working that whole time, even if you don’t think it will be good. Don’t stop. If you want to keep working after the timer rings, go for it.
- Ask someone for ideas on how to break through. Ask anyone. You may be surprised. I once asked my 9 year old son how I should get my characters out of a sticky situation, and he broke it down in such a way and came up with such solutions that I was no longer stuck and could move on to the next scene.
- Cry. Let your frustration out. It’s okay. Or hit a punching bag. Scream nice and long. Sometimes we repress our emotions to the point that we freeze up. Let it out. Release, in whatever way that works for you. And then return to your work.
- Do a photo essay. Sometimes, moving into a different medium can help the creative juices flow. Try snapping photographs that remind you of your project, characters, themes, setting. Keep your brain in your story while exercising your creativity in a new way.
- Read your project over again. Or your notes. Go back to when your inspiration was fresh and revisit it. Keep a notepad handy and keep track of your ideas as they come.
- Interview a character. Sometimes, we freeze up because we are not completely clear on the truth of what we are writing about. Ask the characters questions, and then imagine how they would respond. Putting yourself in the place of characters, especially secondary characters can lead to surprising revelations and break through that block.
- Switch it up. Change the POV, or the setting, night to day, male to female. Write in letter format or toss in some newspaper articles about what is happening in your story.
- Explore the past of your story. Write the history of a character, how they came to be. Where their people came from. A defining struggle in their life. The insight this provides could a complexity to your story you never imagined, even if it never gets into the story proper.
- Take on writing challenges. Use prompts. Exercise your skill and look for creative ways to incorporate new ideas into your work.
- Write a two minute poem. Loosen up the flow of words and creativity by letting go of prose. Trick your block by taking it out of the project that has you stumped.
- Dance. Or shower. Or go for a run. Meditate. Do something physical. Stop trying to push through and instead live in your body for a bit. Come back later. But do come back.
- Write your story in the style of your favorite author. How would Shakespeare handle your characters? How would Jane Austen wrangle your plot? What would Stephen King do with your antagonist? You don’t have to use any of this in your project, but what if you found something you would like to use?
The point is, if you want to write, you have to write. And to get through the resistance to writing, the fear, the confusion, the insecurity, and/or the blank page, you just have to write. So take a detour around your block. Find another way through. Switch the game and you find all of a sudden that perhaps the game is not quite as intimidating as you thought it was.